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Vagnini fighting to save French immersion program with four students

Transferring program out of Lively 'very, very short-sighted,' says city councillor
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Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini is urging parents to fight the local English Catholic board's plans to transfer some French Immersion students from a Lively elementary school to a high school in the city's core. File photo.

Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini is urging parents to fight the English Catholic board's plans to transfer some French Immersion students from a Lively elementary school to a South End high school.

But school board chair Michael Bellmore told Sudbury.com that extremely low enrolment is what prompted the Sudbury Catholic District School Board to consider the change. 

If approved by the school board March 21, the plan would send Grade 7 and 8 French Immersion students at St. James Catholic Elementary School to St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School.

Bellmore said there's only four French Immersion students in the two upper grades at St. James this year, and enrolment is not expected to increase significantly in the coming years. 

The most Grade 7 and 8 French Immersion students there's projected to be in the near future is five years from now, when there would be 10.

“My understanding of it is it's the right choice from a programming perspective because (of) such low enrolment,” Bellmore said.

Vagnini sent a letter to St. James parents and local media in which he asks parents to phone Sudbury Catholic trustees and show up at the March 21 meeting.

The Facebook group “Save Grade 7 & 8 French Immersion at St. James” shows Vagnini held a community meeting on the issue Sunday, March 19.

But Vagnini, Bellmore said, has not contacted the board to learn more about the program transfer. 

“He's never at any time reached out to speak to any of our board staff or administration, so I don't know what details he's working off of,” he said.

When asked why he didn't contact the board, Vagnini said it's because he just found out about the issue last week. 

“My comment to that would be why didn't Mr. Bellmore call me and let me know what was going on?” he said, saying he'd give Bellmore a call.

Bellmore said the program transfer is actually something that's been on the board's books since 2011, stemming from the outcome of an accommodation review, but has never been implemented.

Theoretically, Sudbury Catholic is actually able to transfer all Grade 7 and 8 students to the high school through the outcome of that accommodation review, Bellmore said.

But Vagnini said the board's plan is “very, very short-sighted,” adding there are three new subdivisions that could be built and two new mines in the area scheduled to come into full production.

One of the subdivisions Vagnini is talking about, Bellmore said, is something that's “been on the books for quite some time,” and is more hypothetical.

Maybe the program transfer affects four students today, Vagnini said, but it could be 15 or 20 in the future. 

“And we know if the French Immersion goes, what else is going to be next?” he said.
 


Heidi Ulrichsen

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